Rafael Nadal charged mercilessly into the quarter-finals of the French Open with an emphatic straight-sets win over fellow Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut on Sunday.
Nadal has lost only 20 games en route to the last eight at Roland Garros after ominously dispatching the 17th seed 6-1 6-2 6-2 at a packed Court Suzanne Lenglen a day after his 31st birthday.
The tournament favourite has been imperious on clay this year and will take some stopping as he strives to become the first man to win the same grand slam 10 times in the Open Era.
Nadal was almost flawless, matching Roger Federer’s record of 11 quarter-final appearances in the Paris major – a tally which Novak Djokovic can also equal later in the day.
Fourth seed Nadal, who lost only one point on serve in the second, will now face Milos Raonic or Pablo Carreno Busta as he continues his quest to complete ‘La Decima’ in the second week.
The ‘King of Clay’ set the tone with a rasping forehand winner before belting down an ace to hold to love and mixed it up with a cute drop-shot prior to a stray forehand from Bautista Agut, which left him trailing 2-0.
Bautista Agut came up with sumptuous forehands of his own and there was a double fault from Nadal as the underdog broke back immediately, but that was not a sign of things to come.
Nadal was given a time violation warning but took that in his stride, saving two break points and unleashing a thunderous backhand winner in an eventful fifth game to lead 4-1.
The 14-time grand slam champion clenched his fist after taking the first set in 37 minutes with a vicious forehand winner and led 3-1 in the second after charging in to guide a backhand winner when Bautista Agut struck the net cord.
Bautista Agut was doing his best to fend off his rampant compatriot, but Nadal gave him no chance with another searing forehand before a double fault gifted the world number four a 5-2 lead and he served out a second set in which he dropped just the solitary point on serve.
The third went with serve until the pressure told on Bautista Agut, who sent a backhand into the net to trail 3-2 and the nine-time champion made light work of securing another emphatic straight-sets victory, sealed when his toiling opponent netted after being ground into submission.
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) June 4, 2017
Nadal  bt Bautista Agut  6-1 6-2 6-2
Nadal – 31/23
Bautista Agut – 12/25
Nadal – 4/2
Bautista Agut – 0/1
BREAK POINTS WON
Nadal – 7/18
Bautista Agut – 1/4
FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE
Nadal – 62
Bautista Agut – 76
PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE
Nadal – 69/73
Bautista Agut – 52/33
Nadal – 88
Bautista Agut – 56